The Obsessive Life and Mysterious Death of the Fisherman Who Discovered The Loch Ness Monster
A humble Scotsman saw something strange in the water—and daringly set out to catch it—only to have lecherous out-of-towners steal his fame and upend his quest.
Writing this Narratively Classic, originally published in December 2020, sent me on an entertaining deep dive into one of the world's most popular mysteries. But I wasn't interested in rehashing a well-known tale. Instead, I was drawn to the virtually unknown story of Sandy Gray, a bus driver and fisherman from the banks of Loch Ness. His encounters with something strange in the water changed his life and played an overlooked part in the creation of the "Loch Ness Monster" legend. I always want to uncover unusual stories featuring interesting characters with cinematic arcs. It's what I do on my Substack, Singular Discoveries. Sandy's story was a real gift of a find, with a great arc for his character, surrounded by all the colorful craziness of the early monster sightings. That craziness obscured Sandy's place in the legend for almost a century. I hope that telling his story here means he'll no longer be forgotten.
Sandy Gray was fishing in the peat-black waters of Loch Ness when he discovered an unusual animal. It was a sleety Saturday in March 1932, and the animal was a large, elaborately colored bird with a glossy green head, a fan of coppery-red plumes, and a dark-metallic breast. Sandy spent much of his free time on the loch (the Scottish word for “lake”) and knew that this creature was a rare discovery. The bird was badly injured; it appeared to have been shot or trapped. Sandy, a bus driver from the tiny loch-side village of Foyers, attempted to save it. He took it home but could only keep it alive for a few days. After it died, Sandy took it to the nearby town of Inverness to have it identified.
The bird, according to the Inverness librarian, was a mandarin duck. It was native to Asia and entirely alien to Loch Ness, which carves a glaciated furrow through the rugged splendor of the Scottish Highlands. It seemed that the duck had escaped or otherwise been released from captivity into an unfamiliar habitat. Sandy’s remarkable find was reported in newspapers across Scotland. “Beautiful Visitor to Loch Ness,” read one headline.
It was not the last time Sandy Gray would be in the papers for an unusual encounter at Loch Ness.
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